Merlin was waiting for them in the clearing, pacing nervously back and forth in the light of the setting sun.
“There you are!” he called, rushing over and hefting a full leather bag off the ground. “I was beginning to think something had happened - you’d changed your minds and not told me or Arthur found out who you were-”
“We told him,” Dean said. “He’s cool with it.”
Merlin stared at him as though he had just told him that Arthur was a part-time hooker.
“You should give him a little more credit,” Sam added, patting Merlin on the shoulder. “You got our clothes?
Merlin nodded numbly and held out the bag.
“Thanks,” Dean said.
“What... what did he say? How- Has he followed you?” Merlin asked, his eyes scanning the forest behind them.
“No, we checked,” Sam answered.
Merlin’s eyes went gold for a moment, but Dean figured they were proven correct when he relaxed. They told him about their conversation with Arthur as they changed into their normal clothes.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Merlin said. “Now he’ll... be curious. He’ll ask questions.”
“Good,” Dean said.
“You did this to force my hand,” Merlin accused. “It was not your place!”
“Hey, you can keep lying to him if you want,” Dean replied. “But take it from two people with experience – Destinies are a lot easier to deal with if you know what they fucking are.”
“I know what our destiny is, that’s enough!” Merlin yelled back.
“Is it, Merlin?” Sam asked. “You told me yourself – the only sorcerers Arthur sees are the ones that try to kill him. He doesn’t see the good in magic, because the good sorcerers are afraid of him... including you.”
“I’m not afraid of Arthur,” Merlin said, but he didn’t meet their eyes.
“You’re afraid of losing him,” Sam said. “It’s the same thing.”
Merlin didn’t reply, instead he just started shoving their discarded garments into his bag. Dean and Sam decided with a look that it was best to just leave the conversation there.
After a whole week in Camelot, it was weird to see Sam wearing plaid and jeans. Dean realized how strange they must have looked to Merlin when he first summoned them. Dean felt otherworldly for a moment.
Then Merlin looked up at the sky and shouted in a suddenly deep and raspy voice, “O drakon, e mala soi ftengometh tesd'hup anankes! Erkheo!” And nevermind, Dean thought, because that was otherworldly.
“What was that?” Dean asked carefully.
“I need the dragon to send you back,” Merlin replied. “Did I mention that I was a dragonlord?”
“No,” Sam said.
Merlin smiled. “He’ll be here in a few moments.”
“Hey, uh, no hard feelings, right Merlin?” Dean said. “I know you’re angry with us, but – well, we did have fun this past week, and you’re a decent guy.”
“Yeah, it was really great to meet you,” Sam added. “If you ever need us, just...well, I guess you’d have to summon us again.”
“But we totally won’t be as angry about it next time,” Dean added.
Merlin laughed. “Thanks, I... maybe you have a point about Arthur, I just... I guess a person can get used to living a certain way, and the idea of changing anything...”
“Is scary as hell,” Dean finished. “Yeah man, I get it.”
“Things are going to change whether you like it or not, for better or for worse,” Sam said. “Don’t you think you’d prefer to be the one in control?”
A large shadow suddenly fell over them and Dean looked up to find an enormous creature descending from the darkening sky. It was unlike the dragons that he and Sam had fought, that was for sure. It was unlike anything Dean had ever seen outside of movies.
“Holy shit,” Sam said under his breath and Dean couldn’t help but agree. Merlin just smiled and walked forward to stand directly under the dragon’s huge jaws.
“Good evening, young Warlock,” the dragon’s voice boomed.
“Holy crap, it can talk,” Dean whispered.
“Indeed, Warrior,” the dragon spoke.
“Dean, Sam, I’d like you to meet Kilgarrah,” Merlin introduced, still standing way too close to the thing in Dean’s opinion. “Kilgarrah, Dean and Sam.”
The dragon, Kilgarrah, lowered his head in greeting, Sam gave a little awkward wave.
“Uh, nice to meet you, I guess,” Dean added.
“I promised the warriors that I’d return them to their world after the monsters were slain,” Merlin said. “Please tell me you know how to do that.”
“Wait, you don’t know how!?” Dean stared at Merlin.
“Maybe... not as such,” Merlin gave him an apologetic smile.
“God, you really are a lying bastard,” Dean said.
“Do not worry, Warriors,” Kilgarrah said. “I can get you home, but we must all work the spell together.”
“Um, Dean and me, we aren’t sorcerers,” Sam spoke up, “I mean, we do simple spells sometimes, but we’re not like Merlin.”
“This is true, but it is not your magic that is required, but rather that of your dragon,” Kilgarrah answered.
“You have a dragon!?” Merlin asked, eyes hopeful.
“No,” Dean said. “We don’t have a dragon. Haven’t seen one for years, and last one we did see, tried to kill us.”
Merlin deflated. Kilgarrah, however, lowered his head and narrowed his eyes at them like he was reconsidering something... Dean really hoped it didn’t involve eating them.
“Perhaps you use a different word,” Kilgarrah considered. “I speak of the winged one. I can sense his mark on you.”
“Castiel?” Sam said. “Are you- I think he means, Cas!”
“But Cas is an angel,” Dean replied.
“What’s an angel?” Merlin asked.
“I thought the Arthurian legends were Christian based,” Sam muttered.
“Apparently not here, and maybe we should focus on the problem at hand!” Dean replied, gesturing to the giant friggin’ dragon.
“Right, um, okay... so, we can’t...uh... I don’t think Cas can hear us call him from another world,” Sam told Kilgarrah.
“That is where Merlin and I come in,” Kilgarrah replied. “We can only open the barrier between the worlds wide enough for your voice to get through. From there, this Cas must open it the rest of the way and reach through for you.”
“And if this doesn’t work?” Dean asked.
“Well, Arthur did say he was going to knight us,” Sam answered. Dean huffed a humourless laugh.
“How about we worry about that after we try,” Merlin offered.
“Yeah, alright, let’s do this,” Dean nodded.
The dragon lowered its head and breathed on Merlin, who simply closed his eyes and stood there.
“Okay, slightly gross,” Dean said, as Kilgarrah stopped and then glared at him.
“That’s how he teaches me spells,” Merlin shrugged. “They’re just... put directly into my mind, as though I always knew them.”
“You did, I simply guide your conscious mind to the knowledge,” Kilgarrah explained. “Now, let us begin.”
With that, Merlin and the dragon shifted so that they were facing the open end of the clearing. Merlin gestured for Sam and Dean to stand in front and to the side of him.
“Uh, if I don’t get a chance to say it once this starts,” Merlin said, smiling. “I’d just like to... well, thank you, for everything, and tell you that it’s been an honour.” He then reached out his arms, palms open, and he and the dragon began to chant in a language that Dean didn’t recognize, and then their eyes started glowing gold. Golden tendrils seemed to flow from the dragon through Merlin. Dean realized that Merlin was acting as the funnel to concentrate the dragon’s magic and his own into a single point.
In front of them, the air started to ripple – as though someone was throwing pebbles into a vertical pond. Sam nudged Dean in the ribs.
“Cas,” Dean said. “Uh, I really hope you can hear me. We’ve been summoned to another world, and we need your help getting back. We got the door open on this side a little, but we need you to open it the rest of the way so we can get home.”
“Castiel,” Sam continued, “We’re just outside of Camelot, if that makes a difference. We’ve got Merlin and a dragon here. Um... please help open the door?”
Merlin chanted as the brothers called their angel-dragon. It was so unlike the way he summoned Kilgarrah, that part of him feared that the brothers had been correct and they really didn’t have a dragon. He wondered whether they would ever forgive him if they were trapped forever in Camelot. He wondered whether it would only be a matter of time before they told his secrets to Arthur… he tried to focus on the chanting and ignore the part of him that thrilled at the idea.
“Dean, Sam,” a deep voice suddenly filled the clearing. It vibrated in Merlin’s very bones. His hands shook with fear.
“Cas!” Dean called back, clearly delighted, though Merlin couldn’t fathom rejoicing at such a terrifying voice. “Buddy!” Dean continued, “Can you open this thing a little wider.”
“Close your eyes,” Cas’ voice rang out yet again.
The air rippled more intensely, and a light appeared in the centre of the ripples, as though Merlin and the dragon were opening a door into the sun. Merlin couldn’t look directly at it.
“Shit, I think he’s going true form for this,” Sam said, “Merlin! Dragon! Close your eyes!”
Losing the visual connection to the spell was hard, but, even with his eyes closed, the light burned.
“Goodbye Merlin! It’s been fun,” Dean called.
“Good luck! Think about what we said,” Sam said.
Merlin desperately wanted to say goodbye, but he could feel the sweat beading on his temple and it was taking all his concentration just to keep the spell going and the doorway open. The very fabric of creation seemed to be rebelling at the break in the barrier between worlds.
Then, the blinding light vanished, and the clearing was plunged back into ordinary darkness. Kilgarrah stopped chanting and Merlin felt the dragon’s magic leave him. He opened his eyes.
After the blinding light of the doorway, Merlin couldn’t even see his own hands.
“That wasn’t a dragon,” Merlin said, his heart still racing. The very presence of the being had filled him with terror and yet Dean had greeted it as though it were a friend from the tavern.
“No,” Kilgarrah said.
“Wait, are you admitting you were wrong about something?” Merlin turned to look at Kilgarrah. He could only make out Kilgarrah’s eyes glowing above him, as Merlin’s eyes adjusted to the evening light.
“The spell worked,” Kilgarrah argued. “I was correct.”
“But you were wrong about them having a dragon,” Merlin stated, laughing. “Admit it, you arrogant ass.”
“I never claimed to be infallible,” Kilgarrah said haughtily. “Best get back to Camelot, young Warlock, lest Arthur grow suspicious.” Merlin felt the rush of air as Kilgarrah beat his wings and lifted off into the night sky. The dragon flew towards the fading twilight, probably because – like Merlin – it was all he could see.
Merlin managed to find his knapsack and the swords that Dean and Sam had been using. Thankfully, he knew this part of the wood like the back of his hand. He was halfway back to Camelot before his eyes recovered from the spell.
He slipped into one of the siege tunnels so that he could return the swords to the armoury before anyone saw him and started asking questions. As he was placing the battered swords back on the forgotten rack at the back of the room, he suddenly missed the brothers greatly. It had felt good to have someone other than Gaius know the truth about him.
He couldn’t help but wonder if he had underestimated them, even though he had known who they were the entire time. In the clearing, they had called a creature to them – a good spirit, Merlin corrected himself, thinking of the stories. They had called a spirit so large his voice shook your bones, a spirit so bright that you could not actually gaze upon it – and they had commanded this spirit with simple words, no, not commanded, simply spoken to. They had asked and the spirit had chosen to obey! What power the brothers must hold…
They had even corrected Kilgarrah. Merlin chuckled again. Though, he thought, Kilgarrah did have a point – it’s not like he had ever claimed to be infallible.
‘Then why do you follow his words as though he is?’ a small voice in the back of Merlin’s head spoke up. Merlin couldn’t tell if it was the voice was the influence of the brothers or of Arthur, but it made him still. ‘Don’t you think you’d prefer to be the one in control?’ Sam’s voice floated in the back of his mind.
Merlin shook his head and tried to convince himself that the brothers just didn’t understand, but the thought stayed there, niggling, as he made his way to Arthur’s chambers.